Orson Wells said  ‘I think Oxford wrote Shakespeare.  If you don’t agree, there are some awfully funny co-incidences to explain away’.[1]   This play is about the co-incidences around   A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Shake-speare’s Sonnets and the life of Edward de Vere,  the Earl of Oxford.   Underlying the story is the idea that Shakespeare was motivated by unconscious grief,  a predictor of extreme creativity as the only alternative to madness.  Edward struggles in an existence mediated for all of us by imagination, reflecting A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s seamless world  - where the human, the magical and the natural worlds flow into each other.


HOW TRUE?  All the people and most of the events in the play are historical.  Two notions aren’t proven but have broad academic acceptance:  that Henry Wriothesley was the beloved young man of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, and that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written for the wedding of de Vere’s daughter Elizabeth (Bess) to William Stanley.  The triangular Edward-Anne-Henry relationship and the idea of Shaksper of Stratford as a director are conjectures.  The timing and nature of Anne Vavasor’s death and of Edward de Vere’s breakdown, and Shakesper being presented to the queen, are inventions.


THE SHAKESPEARE AUTHORSHIP QUESTION exists mainly because there is a strange silence around Shakespeare as a writer:  unlike all his literary contemporaries, he left no literary paper trail (records, receipts, references etc showing he was a writer).  He left no books in his will, and no-one noticed when he died.  There are no records of Stratford’s grammar school to confirm his education there, and he didn’t attend a university.  And yet the writer’s knowledge of classical authors is vast.  He must have been adept in Latin, Greek, Italian and French, and he had an intimate knowledge of Italy, of court life, medicine, botany, law, astronomy, sailing, and aristocratic sports like hunting and falconry.  The authorship doubters reason that ‘Shakespeare’ was the pseudonym of an aristocrat.  The silence arose because writing for the public theatre wasn’t

acceptable to his class, and was reinforced by the taboo against printing anything about the aristocracy. [2]


DE VERE AS SHAKESPEARE has some strong support. ‘I do not know what still attracts you to the man from Stratford.  He seems to have nothing at all to justify his claim, whereas Oxford has almost everything.’  Sigmund Freud, 1937 [4]    ‘I agree to put my name to a school of thought that maintains that the earl, Edward de Vere, was the author of the plays ... ’ Sir Derek Jacobi, 1997 [5]    ‘My training is to look for the motivation necessary for any act ... I find the work of the Shakespeare Oxford Society reveals a character, in Edward de Vere, motivated to use the mask of drama to reveal the true identity and nature of his time, as only someone in his position would have known’   Mark Rylance, Artistic Director, Globe Theatre [3]  


DE VERE’S LIFE was stormy, he was extremely intelligent, travelled in Europe, was a major supporter of writers, had two theatre companies, and, according to George Puttenham, was an excellent writer, but a covert one:   ‘And in her Majesty’s time that now is are sprung up another crew of Courtly makers, Noblemen and Gentlemen of Her Majesty’s own servants, who have written excellently well as it would appear if their doings could be found out and made public with the rest, of which number is first that noble gentleman, Edward Earl of Oxford.’ [6]


Other records repeat this acclaim:  I may not omit the deserved commendations of many honourable and noble Lords and Gentlemen in Her Majesty’s Court, which, in the rare services of poetry, have been and yet are most skilful; among whom the right honourable Earl of Oxford may challenge to himself the title of the most excellent among the rest.’  William Webbe [7]  The best for Comedy among us be Edward Earle of Oxforde .’ Francis Meres [8]  Pallas striking her shield with her spear shaft will attend thee ...  witness how greatly thou dost exceed in letters ...  thou hast drunk deep draughts not only of the Muses of France and Italy, but hast learned the manners of many men, and the arts of foreign countries ... Thine eyes flash fire, thy countenance shakes a spear ...’  Gabriel Harvey to Edward de Vere [9]




[1]  Orson Wells in Kenneth Tynan’s Persona Grata, 1953, Allen Wingate Ltd., London

[2]  Price, Diana,  2001,  Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography.  New Evidence of an Authorship Problem, Greenwood Press, Westpool, Connecticut & London   

[3]  Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, Winter 1997                 

[4]  Ernst Freud, ed.  1970,  Letters of Sigmund Freud and Arnold Zweig, Hogarth, London

[5] The Washington Times, April 25th 1997

[6] Puttenham, George (attributed), 1589,  The Arte of English Poesie,  In Ancient Critical Essays, Ed. Joseph Haslewood, Robert Triphook, London, 1811.  Reprinted in Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Amsterdam 1971 and Ogburn C. (1984/1992)  The Mysterious William Shakespeare, 

[7]  Webbe, William, 1586,  A Discourse of English Poetry.  In Ancient Critical Essays, Ed. Joseph Haslewood,  Robert Triphook, London, 1815.  (Reprinted in  Ward, 1979, The 17th Earl of Oxford, John Murray, London)

[8]  Meres, Francis, 1598,  Palladis Tamia, Wits treasury.  Reprinted Garland, New York,  1973, and in Professor Georgio Melchiori’s Introduction to King Edward III, The New Cambridge Shakespeare, 1998

 [9] Harvey, Gabriel, 1578, Gratulationes Valdinenses, Libri quatuor:  in Ward, 1979,  The 17th Earl of Oxford, John  Murray, London